Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jason Ackman: Ideas & Inspiration

by Nichole Lance

Jason Ackman. Except for This. 2010. Reclaimed Lumber, Reclaimed Clay, Latex Paint, 48”x28”x51”. This artwork is featured in "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" and was selected for an Award of Excellence by exhibition Juror Mr. Richard V. West.

When Art Saint Louis' Artistic Director Robin Hirsch asked me to consider the artists in the current exhibit, "Art St. Louis XXVIII" and write something for this blog, I found that I was particularly drawn to the sculptural work of Rushville, Illinois artist Jason Ackman. I was struck by his choice of materials and design. But moreover, I was impressed by the simple and yet complex messages conveyed behind each of his works. I interviewed him via email and what follows is our conversation.

Nichole: What inspires your works?

Jason: "This is an ongoing ever-changing list. Ideas and inspiration come from all over the place. Often times it is the unexpected that really gets my gears turning."

Jason Ackman. Things we choose to forget. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 55.5”x28.5”x14”.

Nichole: Your works feel like they are created with a strong purpose. Could you elaborate on the message you are trying to convey?  

Jason: "For me, the medium is as important as the work itself. Almost all of the materials I use are reclaimed. Whether it is wood or clay. I suppose I am trying to communicate the relationship I notice between the material and people. Materials, like people, have a history a story. This connection is very important to me. I don't think my work would convey the same message with newly purchased materials."

Nichole: What are the symbolisms behind Except for This?

Jason: "We all have baggage and a history. Those things we carry with us for one reason or another. Life experiences, joys, tragedies, all impact what we choose to hold onto and carry with us. Yet when  all is said and done and my time here on Earth is has come full circle what can what can I take with me?  Nothing except for this...our heart, our soul."

Jason Ackman. Turning Point. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 72”x64”x156”.

Jason also explained two other sculptural pieces.

Turning Point (pictured above): "This piece deals with transition and stepping out into uncharted territory. Our past is deeply connected to who we are. We often feel ourselves bound to this past or history. Ultimately we come to a point where we either continue on in the same direction or we cut ourselves loose and respond to where we feel called or drawn to. Moving in this direction forces us out of our comfort zone, taking us somewhere we have not been The lower boat symbolizes stability, comfort and safety. It is turned over, as if out of the water with the milk crates acting like supports and roots to my childhood. The upper boat is symbolic of a new direction. The stability is not there and the stern is precariously balanced on a stack of children's blocks. The oars are up as if to say I can't necessarily steer myself and I have to let go."

Jason Ackman. Early On. 2011. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 52”x60”x60”.

Early On (pictured above): "This piece was created in response to my childhood and small town upbringing. As a young boy I spent many hours with my father in the various grocery stores he managed in our hometown. It was during those times and through those experiences of watching, learning and absorbing that I learned quite a bit about life…what is important and what is not, things to hold onto and things to let go of, how to interact with and respect people and the list goes on and on. The blocks represent all of those experiences, those in the cart the ones worth holding onto and those outside the cart representing those we leave behind. The cart is symbolic of how we carry our experiences with us and how they continue to impact what we see and experience in life around us."

Nichole: In the end our work's perception and interpretation is ultimately left up to our viewers but what do you hope your works will convey to your viewers? 

Jason: "I hope that they will ultimately start a conversation. Art affords the perfect opportunity for dialog."

Jason Ackman. Breach. 2012. Reclaimed Lumber, Latex Paint, 95”x38”x24”.

Nichole: And how do you use titles to aid the viewer in grasping your ultimate vision?
Jason: "Titles are a tough thing. Often times the titles I choose reflect what I am thinking or feeling through the work. I have a specific concept or vision for each piece I create and I try to choose a title that I feel can communicate that vision."


"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis October 29-December 27, 2012. Gallery is free and open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays, including Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org


Nichole Lance is a Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. A senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, she will graduate this Fall with a BFA in Studio/Drawing. You can see Nichole's thesis artwork exhibited in the “SIUE BFA Fall 2012 Exhibition” on view in the Morris University Center Gallery at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL (November 27-December 5).

If you know of a undergrad or grad level college student interested in serving as a Winter 2013 intern, have that person visit the ASL website and download our Internship Application and we can set up an interview and hopefully schedule an internship!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

“Life is constantly changing. You can wallow in the clichés or adapt.”

by Diane Reilly

As Art Saint Louis adapted its space once again to present a new exhibit, "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition," a certain name jumped out to me from  the list of accepted artists. Jim, or Professor Burwinkel to me, has an artwork in the exhibit—his first public showing since he was in the 8th grade. Intrigued, I plunged in to find out more about a former professor of mine. On a recent rainy Monday morning, Jim Burwinkel and I were able to meet in a warm St. Louis café and he shared his frame of mind with me about how he balances his roles in the theater, the studio and the classroom.

Jim Burwinkel. "My Other Brother Darryl." 2012. Wood, Wax, 16”x46”x18”.

Diane: What is the focus of your set design work as opposed to your creations in the studio?

Jim: “Theater approaches the idea of functionality with interpretation, it’s ephemeral, it happens for a couple hours a night. Five or six weeks later, your design is gone, and you try something different with the next one. Not really new, but I concentrate on creating an environment instead of picture. The focus becomes a lot more about space. Build upon the character and the context in the spatial environment; my work guides and directs interactions, helps the story line come along. Theater is very elaborate, has more to do with helping tell a story. I bring my own personal experiences to that process when designing, but between the script and director what ends up on stage is a product of the story, an outside me. I own it since it’s something I care about and created, but it’s not anywhere near the same kind of output as working in the studio, freely trying to tell something that is truly you.”

Jim Burwinkel. "Phi." 2012. Acrylic on Cast Plaster, 24”x15”x1.25”.

Diane: How has the studio shaped your current story?

Jim: “Having the confidence finally that what you have to say is something worthwhile for others to come experience. For me, the hardest part of any piece is coming up with what you want to say. Surface and materials interest me. Bricks are fascinating. The clay that makes them up then the different weather and conditions that surround them make each surface different. I want the audience to really analyze surface when they look at my pieces. For me, it is a kind of a process of figuring out what the material is and what I want to do with it. It’s an idea I’ve kept with me for several years. Painting is a lot about surface, taking a material and applying it. I then manipulate the surface. Plaster absorbs at different rates/properties. So I started applying simple colors and abusing the surface a little to bring in the properties of plaster. It absorbs only a small amount and picks up marks quite easily. After a lot of layers, I created an experience for the audience to share when they see the piece. They get a little closer to the idea of what the surface of plaster is.”

Jim Burwinkel. "Suburbia." 2012. Wood, Wax, Graphite, 63”x8”x6.5”.

Diane: How does your role as a professor play into all of this?

Jim: “I was in administration for ten years, it was exhausting. No time. When your hand spends all day writing, hard to convert that into drawing afterwards. Stepping away has allowed me to be a little more focused again on my art. Things I do simultaneously. Negotiate professor and artist, part of the gig. Not being an administrator lets me forget about all these outside things; simplify back to my art, my students, and so forth. For the time being, this is very satisfying. I am going on sabbatical in the spring and will really develop a project working with texture and light, something similar to an assignment I give my students every semester.”

Jim Burwinkel. "Divide." 2012. Acrylic on Cast Plaster, 13”x13”x2”. This artwork is currently on view in "Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" at Art Saint Louis (through December 27, 2012).

Diane: Any parting words?

Jim: “I have two major pieces of advice I tell all of my students. First, food is not just a hobby. Oftentimes people lose sight of how important it is to choose food that enriches your body, not whatever is most convenient. Second, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be fun. The easiest pathway will not necessarily bring you enlightenment. It is well worth expending the extra effort to take something to the next level or incorporate a new idea into a project than sitting around and taking it easy. Boils down to simple choices we make every day.”


"Art St. Louis XXVIII, The Exhibition" is presented at Art Saint Louis October 29-December 27,  2012. Gallery is free & open to the public M & Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tu-Fr 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Sundays & holidays, including Thanksgiving & Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Art Saint Louis is located at 555 Washington Avenue, #150, St. Louis, MO. 314/241-4810. www.artstlouis.org


Diane Reilly is currently serving as Fall 2012 Intern at Art Saint Louis. Diane is a Junior at Saint Louis University with a double major in Marketing and Communications Design.